I left work just before 5 thinking I had to be at class at 6, and on the way home realized that tonight's class was not until 7:30. I took advantage of the found time, and stopped by the Harris Teeter on the way home. I got lots of fruit and veggies, and some cheese and yogurt. The database that stores all of my purchases through my VIC Card is going to be like, HUH? Is this John shopping? Where's the potato chips, cream cheese, and pizza? We'd better alert the home office. Maybe someone has stolen his card.
I forgot to mention yesterday that my eight Soul Ballads and two Duet Soul Ballads CDs arrived in the mail yesterday. My house is full of soul today.
Steve sent me a reference in Sunday's N&O to my picture in the paper back in October. It brought back memories of all the conflama. (The reference in this article, "Does anyone out there not know about the famous "snuggling" photograph published on Oct. 21, accompanying a story about the increasing openness of gay people in society? The picture of two men on a bed sparked a heavy outpouring of reader communications...," would be referring to the picture of me and my boyfriend.)
Same-sex marriage coverage stops short
Ted Vaden, Staff Writer
Yikes. When will The N&O stop picking at the same-sex marriage issue?
That was my first thought last Sunday when I picked up the paper and saw a page-one display story titled "A struggle to define marriage." My second thought was: Oh no, here comes a flood of letters to the public editor.
I know some of you had similar reactions, because you've been kind enough to share your thoughts:
"I'm as sick as any one person can be at the bombardment of articles on gay rights and same-sex marriages," wrote Phil Adams of Garner.
And, "Sometimes it seems like the N&O prints 'gay' stories just to stir things up. The gay couple snuggling in bed was unbelievable!" wrote Janet Palmquist, a self-described gay rights advocate from Raleigh.
Does anyone out there not know about the famous "snuggling" photograph published on Oct. 21, accompanying a story about the increasing openness of gay people in society? The picture of two men on a bed sparked a heavy outpouring of reader communications, and for several days The N&O's publisher and executive editor did little but respond to calls and e-mails.
So why would the paper venture back into that caldera again so soon, or at all? From the standpoint of The N&O, it was to serve the newspaper's informational mission in a way that would give off more light than heat.
Last Sunday's package told the stories of two people who have thought long and deeply about same-sex marriage and come to opposite conclusions. Both were thoughtful, even prayerful, but not strident, and they displayed empathy with opposing viewpoints. You got the feeling that if these two folks, David Kesterson and Suzanne Luper, sat down over a cup of coffee to discuss gay marriage, they'd find a lot of common ground.
The main story was accompanied by the accounts of four other local people -- two opposed to same-sex marriage, two in support -- that provided more viewpoints on the issue.
"We were trying to do something that let people closer to the middle have the floor," said Steve Riley, the assistant managing editor who oversaw the project. "That's not to say anything about people who are more intense about it, but I feel like they're having plenty of opportunity to have their say. Most people don't fall on the extremes."
Did the concept succeed? Certainly in not offending many people. We got 30-40 e-mails and phone calls, and only a few were critical. A common gripe -- surprisingly, to me, from people on both sides of the single-sex marriage question -- is that the newspaper doesn't need to keep shoving this divisive issue in readers' faces.
Yes it does. This is an issue not of the newspaper's making, but of society's. The N&O did the project because of the upcoming debate over state and national constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage. By coincidence, it came the same week that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America reaffirmed its policy against same-sex union blessings and Episcopal bishops supported their policy giving discretion to individual clergy. (See this column at newsobserver.com keyword: vaden for a link to the coverage.)
"I think it would be cowardly not to discuss the issues that readers are talking about," said Kathy Williams, the N&O manager who edited our package. "I don't think it's our job to sway them in either direction, but to give them things to think about so they can make up their own minds."
Agreed. But I'd add that this package of stories did not go far enough, and if this is all the paper does, it's not giving readers adequate information to form opinions. What these stories did was usher six individuals onto the stage and let them address the issue from their personal perspectives. Before I can make up my mind about same-sex marriage -- and I'm genuinely torn -- here are some other things I need to know:
What is the success rate of same-sex relationships? What is the experience of gay couples raising children, and how do their children do in school and social settings? Are there alternatives to marriage that would give same-sex couples the same legal rights as married heterosexual couples? Can it work to allow same-sex marriage in one state and not in others?
And these more fundamental questions: What does serious science tell us about biology and sexual preference? Can marriage be treated differently in church and secular settings? And yes, let's have a healthy debate on what religion -- not just Christian religion -- teaches us about love, sexuality, marriage.
We'll have to deal with these tough issues, individually and as a society, if we're asked to vote on banning same-sex marriage. Before I do, I want to be fully informed. That's the newspaper's job.
Copyright 2005 by The News & Observer Pub. Co.
The conflama in October:
The Picture of the Two Men on the Bed
The Letters to the Editor the Day After
The Letters to the Editor the Day After That
The N&O's Follow-Up on Sunday
The Spoof Picture on Monday
Class was interesting tonight. We discussed Ben's questions, Dr. Swarts went through his notes, and we started a rushed exercise at the end of class. The links to everyone's blogs are published now, so look forward to checking those out.